Four Questions with Columbus head coach Philip Marino

GHSF Daily's Four Questions feature historically poses the same questions to a different Georgia head coach each issue. This season, head coaches are being asked Four Questions tailored to current events. Today's interviewee is Columbus head coach Philip Marino, whose team earned the program's first playoff victory since 1974 last week with a 35-33 win over Salem in Class AAAA.

Philip Marino, Columbus head coach 

1. What does this victory mean to your program, and what has been the reaction from your community and the players and coaches? "It means all the hard work these 64 players put in since June 1 has its reward. Our goal was to win our region and make the playoffs. We accomplished one of the two. Now we are the only Columbus public school moving into the second round. It means that incoming ninth graders will see that you can attend the No. 1 academic Georgia high school and still succeed in football as a student-athlete. Our school community has always been supportive whether we win or lose. We have the best student body in the state. Our coaches and players are excited and confident about this opportunity that has been put in front of us. We are now representing the city of Columbus in the second round, and that is a first in 44 years."

2. Columbus football has struggled a bit the past few years. What are some of the reasons, and the challenges for Columbus-area schools? "First and foremost the talent is spread out. Second, we have possible recruiting issues just like everyone else in the state. We have eight public high schools and three private high schools in Columbus. Eleven high schools in a city of 180,000, in my opinion, is way too many. You would definitely get the same opinion from many of the coaches, ex-coaches and ex-athletes that live in Columbus. We have high schools that have populations that range from 700 students to almost 1,400. These eight schools in Columbus play in three different classifications. Where Columbus High is located, there are two other high schools within 2.5 miles of each other. If there were four high schools instead of eight, I don't think you would be asking me about the struggles of football in Columbus."

3. There has been a lot of turnover among head coaches in Columbus schools, but you've been at Columbus 10 years now. Columbus has been loyal to you, and you've been loyal to Columbus? "As far as my loyalty to Columbus High and the administration, I made a commitment to myself, the coaching staff and players that I was going to change this program. I knew it would be a tremendous challenge [to build] a program that would be competitive and earn the respect from every team we played and not to be every teams' homecoming win on the schedule. My first five years, trust me, it was that way. The last five years, we have been very competitive and ruined quite a few homecomings. I knew if I could get our incoming freshmen to buy into the process and stay with the program all four years, we would find success. The loyalty to me from my principal Dr. [Marvin] Crumbs is due to the fact that he knew this would take time. He knew I would be a good role model for these young men and I would be able to instill a winning attitude and provide discipline to make the team and them successful. We have very strict academic requirements to get into Columbus High that help develop this discipline to become a great student-athlete. Every coach wants to win, but to me coaching is more than winning. To be able to help develop these players into respectable young men with great character can be just as rewarding as a win."

4. What's the difference between this team and others that you've had at Columbus? What are the main reasons for the most recent success? "When we have 18-25 freshmen come into our program and all 18-25 play all four years, we make the playoffs. When those 18-25 freshman end up being eight seniors, we struggle. This year's team had 19 freshman, and four years later, 19 seniors. Playoffs!"

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